Grading the NFL's Alternates During the Reebok Era for Every Team
Alternate jerseys in the NFL are a recent thing, having only started ten years ago. Needless to say, there have been some good ones as well as some that were awful.
With Reebok's ten year contract set to expire and Nike set to become the league's new uniform supplier, here's a look back at the alternates from 2002-11.
Throwbacks are graded as alternates as well.
Until 2011's redesign when the Bills established a new identity for themselves without wearing a third jersey, they used throwbacks from the OJ Simpson era.
The jerseys were very nice, featuring the silhouette of a buffalo standing, and instead of navy, they went with a normal blue.
When the Bills honored their 50th anniversary, they wore these, as well as a white version.
All in all, the jerseys looked very solid.
The orange jerseys that the Dolphins trotted out during the Reebok period were uuuglyy. It's hard to imagine a team, which for years has relied on aquamarine green, to suddenly have a change of heart and go for the less traditional orange.
However, the jerseys weren't complete disasters. When the team wore them, it seems they were lucky. In 2004 against the New England Patriots, who were undefeated, they won in them. In 2009 against the Jets, they also won in them.
Basically the jerseys may have been ugly, but they were lucky.
New England Patriots
Another throwback. The Patriots trotted out the Pat Patriot togs during their anniversary season, at Thanksgiving, and this year, when they made them their alternates.
The white helmet is very classic, but the red seems to be the wrong color. I'm pretty sure that during the American Revolution, the British wore red, while the rebels wore blue.
Historical accuracy aside, the jerseys are solid, and should the team decide to get rid of Flying Elvis, this should be the jersey they wear next.
New York Jets
When you honor your team's history, you should look back on the great years of the franchise, not the bad ones.
I do appreciate that the Jets went waaay back in order to honor their previous incarnation, and I know the jerseys pictured have been good luck for the team (5-1), but the color scheme is bad, and any young fan who has watched a game when the team wore these has probably asked their father, "Daddy, where are the Jets?"
Maybe the team should think about wearing the 1980's jerseys as alternates.
The Ravens black jerseys are scary. Worn exclusively in primetime, they almost guarantee a win for the team because they strike fear into their opponents.
The jerseys are more menacing than the purple ones they wear for most home games. Why don't they switch the home and the alternate, much like the Titans?
Another team that has an orange top. These jerseys are terrible.
First, when has there ever been a tiger that shade of orange? Second, the orange should stay exclusively on the tiger stripes and Andy Dalton's head. Third, orange isn't exactly a menacing color.
Maybe toning the orange down a bit will improve the jersey, but otherwise, it's not appealing.
The Browns had two alternates in the Reebok era, an orange top from 2002-2005, and a throwback from 2006-2008. I'm grading the throwback because it's better to look at.
The classic jersey had numbers on the helmet, thin stripes, and no shoulder numbers. It represented the classic era of football. If anything, the jersey deserves recognition as just being a good jersey.
Ever since the team introduced these gems to the fans, they have been popular. Worn every year against the archival Ravens, the jersey represents the earlier years of the Steelers
The yellow helmet is a really nice addition, as it reverses the original Steelers color scheme. Plus, it seems to be referenced in Wiz Khalifa's popular (clean) song:
Black Stripe. Yellow Paint. The people scared of it but the pros ain't.
The block numbers are also a refreshing change from the Verdana font.
The Texans jerseys, introduced back in 2003, are worn on a day known as Battle Red Day. In the games they have played in this jersey, they have gone 8-4.
But unfortunately, the jerseys are not great.
The fact that so many teams wear red, the shading of this red almost represents blood. And sure, people from Texas are red-blooded Americans, not to mention the majority are probably Red Staters, but honestly, the jersey doesn't seem to fit in.
The Oilers lasted for 36 years without adopting a red jersey, so why should the Texans?
The Colts have by far the best jerseys in the NFL. It's almost hard to imagine them wearing anything but their regular blue and white tops.
But one game against Philadelphia last year proved people wrong.
The Colts wore white jerseys with sleeve stripes, and a dark blue helmet with white horseshoes.
While the Colts didn't sell out on their identity, they most certainly did not please the fans with this change.
Fortunately the jerseys were scrapped after one game.
From 2002-2008, the Jacksonville Jaguars wore black jerseys in addition to their modern classic teal jerseys. The jerseys were well received by fans, but after the team underwent an identity overhaul in 2009, they were gone. Rumor has it that Nike will add a black jersey to the Jaguars uni rotation for 2012.
The jersey is one of the few examples, like the Ravens, of a black jersey that looked good. ESPN writer Paul Lukas especially liked these jerseys, and was disappointed when the team went for an overhaul.
In Lukas' defense, the jerseys were great. With the loss of teal and the Saints-like coloring, this would have been a modern classic had they kept it.
The Titans wore three third jerseys in the Reebok era, The first was a reverse of the one shown above, the second was the one shown above, and the third was a throwback to their predecessors, the Houston Oilers.
The jerseys shown here incorporate different elements of blue, both Navy and Luv Ya, to make an aesthetically appealing jersey. The shoulder yoke is also unique, as well as the numbers.
All in all, a decent third, but the Titans use of this as a primary knocks it down a grade.
The Broncos will be undergoing a Titans-like change, switching this jersey for their navy ones. Needless to say, of all the third jerseys in the Reebok era for the Broncos, this one is good.
The orange is reminiscent of the Orange Crush jerseys the team wore in the 1970's-early 1990's. The stripe on the jersey is a bit of a redundancy if anything else, and is not something that should be there.
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City was one of the few teams to not have a regular alternate during the Reebok era, but in 2009, as part of the AFL 50th anniversary, the team donned throwbacks that went back to their days in Dallas.
The Dallas Texans throwbacks did not help them win, but they certainly were clean. The silhouette of the State of Texas on the helmet with the star was especially simple and nice.
However, you can probably imagine the confusion associated with a team from Kansas City wearing a helmet with a silhouette of Texas.
The Raiders alternate was worn during the AFL 50th anniversary celebration.
The changes included a silver version of the pirate on the helmet, and silver numbers.
For a team that wore silver and black for their entire history, this served as a refreshing change of pace, if only for one game.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers identity overhaul included adding a third jersey that served as a modern version of the throwback that they had worn for the past few years.
The powder blue is certainly a color that is not seen often in the NFL; in fact, it's usage in the Chargers jersey propelled it to the top of the NFL's top ten uniform list.
If the Chargers were to ever remove this jersey, you could not possibly imagine how angry the fan base would be.
The Cowboys break these out every Thanksgiving. Some games, they look great playing in them, others, they play horribly in them.
For me, the doublestar may be a throwback, but it isn't a great one. The absence of silver in the uniform is quite glaring and makes the Cowboys look like a team in need of an identity. The star on the helmet looks plain, almost without a distinguishing characteristic.
In short, the jersey may be a throwback, but it is not a classic.
New York Giants
With a nickname like Big Blue, you would think the Giants would either get a blue retro alternate, or just not get one at all.
But the team did not. From 2003-2008, the team trotted out this disaster once or twice a year.
It would have been okay if they had a red helmet to go with it, but that unfortunately did not happen.
The Eagles trotted these out in 2003. When Terrell Owens had his ugly honeymoon in Philadelphia, this was the jersey most commonly associated with him. Basically, the jersey is awful.
The jersey is a departure from the traditional green, which defined the team. Plus, it is a pathetic attempt to play Darth Vader when you have more established Vader wannabes in the Baltimore Ravens.
To put it bluntly, the jerseys are awful.
These one time jerseys were worn in 2007 against the Giants. While they did get a win in them, they honestly are not great
First off, no helmet other than Green Bay's should be yellow. Second, the striping is weird. Basically, out of all the jerseys in the NFL East, Washington's is the best, despite it's flaws.
The jersey is nice because it strays away from the crazy numerals that are part of the jersey.
I'm also a sucker for a helmet without logos or numbers on them.
All in all, a classic.
We could grade the Thanksgiving uniforms, but since the Lions didn't wear throwbacks, that's impossible, so we'll go for the black jerseys instead.
Arguably one of the most blatant misuses of black, there wasn't even any on the Lions home uniform. Basically, the Lions tried to look scary, but instead looked like total idiots every time they wore these.
If they were the Panthers unis, then this would be a higher grade.
Green Bay Packers
It's not often you see a team that is as traditional as the Packers use a completely different color scheme.
The jerseys seen here pay homage to the team's original sponsor and namesake, Acme Meat Packing Company.
While the colors are similar to the Jets awful Titans throwbacks, the use of the circle with the numbers inside it is very interesting. It's almost like what the Golden State Warriors do with their jerseys.
The one knock: the back looks like a regular jersey.
Nonetheless, the Curly Lambeau era throwbacks are a classic.
The Vikings jerseys shown here should be the primary jerseys for plenty of reasons. One of the big ones is that it doesn't look godawful, like the current home jersey.
The lack of side piping, and the regular numbers, as well as the horns not having a stupid shadow make this one a really good looking jersey.
I'm a sucker for tradition, I'll admit that, and these jerseys really have grown on me. Especially the Deion Sanders-era helmet.
While the jersey is like any other black jersey—in fact, it almost looks like this one—it's the helmet that gives it a high grade.
Carolina has to have one of the best alternates in the NFL. The unique Carolina Blue is one of those colors you associate with one team, and one team only.
Aside from that, there's almost nothing to criticize. All in all, for a franchise that has only played for 17 seasons, it's safe to say they have a very good alternate.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints go back to the Archie Manning era with these throwbacks. Distinct features are sleeve stripes, yellow pants, retro decals on the helmet, and white and gold numbers.
Why the Saints would honor their years of futility isn't fully comprehensible. Sure, the jerseys look classic, but really, they aren't great throwbacks at all.
What the Saints should do is go back to 2002 and wear the alternate gold top that they donned against the Minnesota Vikings to make the first color on color game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Behold the dreaded Creamsicle jerseys. These jerseys were first worn by the expansion Buccos in 1976, the year they did not win a single game.
The Bucs took them back out back in 2009 and won in them against a Packers team that was a year away from winning a Super Bowl.
These jerseys, while historic, are hideous. From the awful color scheme, to the tutti-frutti buccaneer of questionable orientation on the helmet, this is all-around horrible.
Now since when has there been a black cardinal? Arizona follows the trend of wearing black in order to look more menacing. To put it bluntly, the jersey does not work.
Sure, Patrick Peterson may have had a huge punt return in this uni, but that doesn't excuse it as one of the worst ideas in Cardinals history.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams throwbacks are from their days as the "Greatest Show on Turf". The yellow horns, the blue instead of navy, and the yellow pants all throw back to a better time in team history.
I'm not grading the team based on the fact that they fell on hard times, yet again, but what I am grading them on is the fact that they haven't been able to play to the level that their 1999 brethren did.
San Francisco 49ers
I almost gave the 49ers no grade, but then I remembered that the team wore throwbacks to honor deceased coach Bill Walsh back in 2007.
The jerseys, a replica of the ones worn by the 49ers dynasty of the 1980's, look distinctly different from the ones they wear now. In fact, the best way to see is the shoulder numbers and stripes, which are smaller and wider than the ones worn in the 2011 version.
What was even more amazing about these jerseys was that even then-coach Mike Nolan got in on the act, wearing a suit and tie to honor the legendary Walsh. Very classy, and very deserving of a high grade.
When Seahawks ownership purchased the Seattle Sounders soccer team, they felt that the Sounder fan base could use a push up in popularity with the football team donning jerseys similar to the team's home shirts.
Needless to say, reaction was mixed. Fans both liked and hated it, ESPN writer and uniform expert Paul Lukas blasted them on his blog, players liked them, but coach Jim Mora didn't.
The jerseys were scrapped after one game, with the excuse being that "we didn't win in them."
The jersey is exceptionally bright, I will admit, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. The team was trying to use the lime green found in the eye of their bird logo to make use of the color, and when the Sounders came along, they had the opportunity to use the color. Not bad, but not exactly the best idea either.
The Reebok Bowl
Like I did with the NHL alternate jerseys, there is going to be a playoff to determine which team had the best third jersey. I call it the Reebok Bowl. Here are the "Winners" of each division.
Wild Cards: Patriots and Ravens
Wild Cards: Bears and Vikings
Wild Card playoffs: Winners in bold
Patriots vs. Jaguars
Ravens vs. Bills
Vikings vs. Redskins
Bears vs. Panthers
Ravens vs. Chargers
Jaguars vs. Steelers
Vikings vs. Packers
Panthers vs. 49ers
AFC: Chargers vs. Steelers
NFC: Panthers vs. Packers
Chargers vs. Packers
Reebok Bowl: Packers vs. Chargers. Who Is the Champion?
And the winner of the Reebok Bowl is...
The Green Bay Packers!
Yes, the Acme Packers have won the Reebok Bowl. Going way back in the annals of history really works for a team like the Packers, especially with their jerseys.
There is so much to say about those jerseys. The front, the blank brown helmet, the classic pants. Basically, these jerseys beat powder blue any day.
Congratulations to the Green Bay Packers on winning the first - and only - Reebok Bowl.